Scientists Complete Tsunami Warning Map For 3 East Coast Communities

Monday, December 3rd 2007, 2:37 pm
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Elevation models of the coastal areas of three East Coast communities have been completed in the government's effort to determine the areas at risk from giant waves called tsunamis.

Digital elevation models for Long Island, Atlantic City, N.J. and Daytona Beach, Fla., are now available, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Monday.

That brings to 21 the number of models that have been completed around the country with others still being developed.

The models study the seafloor and land elevations to help gauge the potential impact of rare but dangerous tsunamis, which are caused by geologic movement beneath the ocean.

``Tsunamis are a real threat to coastal communities across the world, including the United States,'' said Lisa Taylor, project manager for the program. ``Developing coastal digital elevation models is one of a series of important collaborative efforts within NOAA to create the best possible Tsunami Warning System for the country.''

A massive earthquake off Indonesia's Sumatra island in December 2004 triggered a tsunami that killed more than 230,000 people and left a half million homeless in a dozen countries.

The maps are developed by scientists at NOAA's National Geophysical Data Center and the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES), both based in Boulder, Colo.

The elevation model is then sent to the NOAA Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory in Seattle, where it is incorporated into tsunami model scenarios. These scenarios simulate offshore earthquakes, the resulting tsunami movement across the ocean and the magnitude and location of coastal flooding caused when the tsunami reaches the shore. With these results, the NOAA Tsunami Warning Centers can issue more accurate flooding forecasts if an earthquake triggers an actual tsunami.

``Near the shoreline, all tsunamis are sensitive to minor variations in seafloor and land topography, increasing in height as they approach the coast,'' said Barry Eakins, CIRES research scientist. ``Better understanding of the relief of the coastal zone is critical to predicting how a tsunami will flood coastal communities.''

Other communities where models have been completed include Biloxi, Miss.; Cape Hatteras, N.C.; Corpus Christi, Texas; Dutch Harbor, Alaska; Galveston, Texas; Garibaldi, Ore.; Kawaihae, Hawaii; King Cove, Alaska; La Push, Wash.; Lahaina, Hawaii; Mayaguez, Puerto Rico; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Panama City, Fla.; Port San Luis, Calif.; San Juan, Puerto Rico; Sand Point, Alaska; Savannah, Ga., and Virginia Beach, Va.